JK Executive Strategies moves its headquarters to the city

JK Executive Strategies moves its headquarters to the city

JK Executive Strategies team (Photo provided)

When JK Executive Strategies moved into its new office on University Avenue last week, Jill Knittel’s staff noticed something wasn’t quite the same with their leader.

“They said, ‘You’re really, really quiet today,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe we’re here,’” Knittel said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would be in this space. I never thought I’d run out of space in our previous location.”

But such is the impact of providing high-quality, true-to-your-values service and solutions for clients with staffing needs.

Founded in 2017, JK Executive Strategies is a woman-owned executive search and recruiting firm specializing in professional and C-level hiring and coaching. In just over four years, the firm has grown from two full-time employees and an intern to a full-time staff of eight along with three interns, with continued growth already projected for 2022.

“Our clients have just been wonderful, and we’ve been so fortunate and so lucky to grow so fast,” Knittel said. “We had a three-year lease in Allen’s Creek Office Park, and last spring I realized we were going to run out of space.

“Over the last six months we’ve had interns sitting in the lobby, we turned a conference room into an office. When I leased it, there were only two of us, with one student, so I thought, ‘It will take years to fill this up.’”

She’s saying the same thing about the new office at 1349 University Ave., which at 6,000 square feet is a little more than double the former space. It is the former home of Merkel Donohue, and through the build out JK Executive Strategies made sure the new digs have an inviting, get-it-done feel while also providing the comforts of home.

There’s a fireplace, skylights, chandeliers in the conference room and an outdoor picnic area in the backyard. There are also dogs. All sorts of dogs.

“We needed our dogs,” Knittel said. “Our last lease did not allow us to bring our dogs to work. Every single employee here has a dog, so that was one of the big things for us, because we wanted that culture.

“We wanted a fun and friendly professional culture, we wanted it to be warm and open and welcoming, but we also love our four-legged friends.”

The firm launched in 2017 as just an executive search agency but now also finds professional-level talent.

“We don’t necessarily do factory workers and blue collar-type things, I think there are great companies that do that,” said Knittel, who in June was named Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council Business Person of the Year for firms with under 50 employees. “We specialize more in the professional level and up, and we also do human resources consulting and contract work.”

As the firm grew and began to excel in finding the right person for the various jobs, it became apparent they could fill other needs as well. They help with the coaching of newly hired executives and soon will be helping companies that have executives on the way out.

“For companies who are downsizing or who are transitioning an executive out of the company, we help provide a soft landing for anybody they let go,” Knittel said. “We’ll be able to provide office space to do job search, we’ll provide job-search coaching, resume writing, all of that type of support so we can help them find a new opportunity.

“We also will do heavier leadership coaching and consulting. Often when we hire a CEO or C-level executive, the board will support a coach to help them acclimate to the new culture so we can provide that as well.”

While 80 percent of the clients are from the Rochester area, the firm’s reach spans the country. They are currently working on a CEO search in Alaska and recently found one for a firm in Colorado.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about some change. While most companies want their CEO or chief financial officers on sight, a number of clients are willing to transition to work-from-home arrangements, wherever that home may be.

“We have a Utica-based client that pre-COVID required candidates to move to the Utica/Syracuse area and now they’re hiring people wherever and providing virtual work arrangements,” Knittel said. “Attorneys, accountants, the professional positions can be work-from-home. I do see a lot more flexibility for service firms and CPA firms.

“With the war on talent, companies have to be more flexible to be able to look nationally for the talent they need.”

Knittel, however, believes an office is critical to how her firm operates. Thus, the new space on University Avenue.

“A lot of my colleagues from around the nation that run staffing firms have gone to a virtual format,” she said. “But I think we learn so much from each other, myself included, every single day, and we lost a little bit of that when we were working at home during COVID.

“We lost the synergy and the fun and the laughs. One of our core values is that we laugh. I always say we’re not saving lives, we’re helping lives, and it’s important to enjoy what we do. The cohesiveness of our team is very, very important to me.”

So, too, is reaching out to the community.

“I really wanted to envision a space that our community can use,” she said. “Nonprofits can use the large training conference room and the large formal conference rooms for meetings. Another of our core values is that we give back to our community, so everyone on my team sits on some board in town. So being able to allow my team to have meetings here and sponsor and host meetings for companies and nonprofits is really something I wanted to do.”

Also on the JK Executive Strategies’ golden rule list: there can’t be a conflict of interest.

“We don’t recruit or place people out of companies that we work with,” she said. “Those things are so, so important. We tell the truth. I tell my team, we have to be able to back up what we do every single day.”

They do so in an environment that fosters productivity and camaraderie.

“Dress code is dress for the day,” Knittel said. “Some days its sweatshirts and leggings and other days we have to dress like our clients and that’s what we do. It’s my vision that everybody lives their lives and their careers in the way they’re most comfortable.

“I always say my team runs their own business on their desk, my job is just to remove barriers and help them along.”

And also to buy the dog food.

[email protected] / (585) 653-4020